This year, Thomas Baumgärtel, better known as the “banana sprayer”, celebrates his 40th anniversary as an artist. Together with Galerie ART-LIMITED, the Discovery Art Fair Cologne 2023 was presenting a major retrospective to this occasion, exhibiting numerous works from the past decades.
Since 1983, Baumgärtel has marked the most interesting art locations worldwide with his banana. By now, there are more than 4,000 museums and galleries. His banana can justifiably be called the unofficial logo and seal of quality of the art scene. At the same time, he is an artist with a strong moral sense who uses his works and public space to draw attention to political and social grievances.
One of his best-known works was also on display at the fair – the large-format sculpture “Ruhender Verkehr” (“stationary traffic”) from 1993, an interpretation of Wolf Vostell’s famous sculpture spray-painted with bananas. This action sculpture, created by Vostell in 1969, has been on Cologne’s Hohenzollernring since 1989. At the time, Vostell completely concreted in his drivable Opel Kapitän (with the radio on). For 54 years now, the sculpture has been a memorial to the escalating car traffic in our inner cities. “The issue is more relevant than ever,” says Baumgärtel. “How beautiful our city centers could be if every space, no matter how small, wasn’t covered with cars.
The Banana Sprayer’s response to the celebrated banana installation by Maurizio Cattelan
When Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan taped a banana to a wall with a piece of duct tape at Art Miami 2019, the action provoked widespread debate and generated a lot of attention. The concept of the installation under the name “Comedian” was sold twice for $120,000. Many have called the action pointless and ridiculous, while others have celebrated it as ingenious and creative. At the same time, there has also been a controversial debate about the value and origin of art. “It is quite possible that Cattelan was inspired by my banana artworks” says Thomas Baumgärtel about his fellow artist’s action. “We live in a world of mutual inspiration and do not copy each other” he continues.
Cattelan took up the controversial discussion about origin and inspiration in 2020 and taped over Thomas Baumgärtel’s spray banana at the Kunsthalle Basel. Now Baumgärtel responded to Cattelan’s action in his hometown of Cologne. At the Discovery Art Fair, Baumgärtel sprayed his interpretation of the “Cattelan banana” live and in front of an audience. How will Maurizio Cattelan react to this?
In celebration of the anniversary, two new editions by the artist will also be presented at the fair – the “Original Banane” and the “Original Banane 2023”. In keeping with the anniversary, both editions are presented in an edition of 40 hand-sprayed copies on paper.
On the occasion of the anniversary, three new editions of the Banana Sprayer were also presented at the fair – the sculpture “Mini-Vostell” as a unique edition as well as the two paper editions “Original Banana” and “Original Banana 2023”. The hand-sprayed paper editions were presented in an edition of 40 copies each, in keeping with the anniversary.